A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday. (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday. (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

From farm to fist: Rampage at Red Fort’s ramparts

  • The farmers were not supposed to be at Red Fort at all. The monument did not fall along the pre-decided routes the three rallies were to take.
By shiv sunny, Anvit Srivastava, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 27, 2021 05:06 AM IST

From dancing to loud music outside the monument, to storming it and attacking the policemen who attempted to evict them, scenes at the Red Fort changed dramatically within 150 minutes of farmers converging at one of the capital city’s most iconic monuments on Tuesday afternoon.

In those 150 minutes, hundreds of farmers climbed the ramparts of Red Fort and hoisted several religious flags (the Nishan Sahib of Sikhs), vandalised almost anything they could lay their hands on, fought a pitched battle with the police, throwing some of them into trenches, and seeking to ram tractors into others.

“The farmers were happy to reach Red Fort after camping at one place for two months. The drama you witnessed is nothing in comparison to the large number of farmers who have converged here. These are minor skirmishes,” said Ajay Pal Singh Brar, a farmer leader from Mohali who was among the crowd gathered at Red Fort, seeking to downplay the incident.

Police had a different view. At least 22 police personnel have been identified to have been injured at the Red Fort clashes alone. The police haven’t been able to pin point the location in the cases of each of the 85 police personnel officially identified as injured in the clashes. But a senior police officer who didn’t want to be identified said that the count of personnel injured at Red Fort is only climbing by the hour. “It could run into several dozens,” said the officer

Of course, the farmers were not supposed to be at Red Fort at all. The monument did not fall along the pre-decided routes the three rallies were to take. However, the buzz among farmers when they set off on Tuesday morning from Singhu was that they would try and reach the monument.

The rally from Singhu Border arrived at Red Fort at 1.30pm, around the same time that some tractors from the Ghazipur rally also reached there. While most tractors stayed on the main road near the monument, others rolled over the trench separating the monument from the two parks right outside it.

Initially, the farmers danced to loud music blaring from their tractors. Other clicked selfies in front of Red Fort, watched over by the police.

But soon, some farmers walked over to the entrance gate of Red Fort in a bid to enter the monument. While a few simply scaled the iron gates, others tied ropes around the gate to open it.

In a matter of minutes, hundreds stormed the monument. Some climbed a dome and hoisted the Nishan Sahib. Another did the same with a flag post that did not have a flag. Some of the protestors were also carrying national flags.

The police swung into action around then. One policeman tried to climb the pole to bring down the flags, but he couldn’t make it to the top and was booed by the farmers as he slipped.

But the worst was yet to come.

The police decided to evict the protestors from the monument. But they faced resistance from the farmers. A pitched battle ensued. Some policemen were thrown into a trench, beaten and bloody.

Then, some farmers chose to drive their tractors into the fighting policemen, injuring several. Others scrambled to escape. Around 20 policemen even jumped into a trench to save themselves.

The protesters were not done, though. They repeatedly rammed a police vehicle which had already been overturned. Others went about trashing other police vehicles, the windows of offices on the premises of Red Fort.

Shortly after, more armers began entering the Red Fort complex, along with horse-mounted Nihang Sikhs.

It was only around 4pm.

Around that time, a larger group of policemen decked in anti-riot gear returned , and had better luck in clearing the complex of farmers. They had to use a bit of force, but most of the farmers by then seemed to be ready to be persuaded. The police were assisted by some farmers who helped clear the monument of protestors.

“At Lal Quila, the farmers broke the gates and entered the wells of Red Fort. A section of the crowd also managed to climb atop the ramparts of the Red Fort where they hoisted their organization’s flag. With great efforts, the Delhi Police managed to remove the crowd from the rampart and the vicinity,” said an official statement released by the police.

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